Global alarm as Iran cracks down on protestors

16th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

In his first comments since the vote, US President Barack Obama said he was "deeply troubled" by violence in Iran, but warned he did not want the United States to become a "political football" in the post-election crisis.

Washington -- World leaders Monday voiced alarm at the outbreak of violence in Iran as police cracked down on protestors demonstrating against the disputed re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In his first comments since the vote, US President Barack Obama said he was "deeply troubled" by violence in Iran, but warned he did not want the United States to become a "political football" in the post-election crisis.

One protestor was reportedly shot dead Monday as one of Iran's worst crises since the Islamic revolution of 1979 intensified, with the opposition's supporters vigorously denouncing the elections as a sham.

If confirmed, it would be the first death since protests flared after Ahmadinejad was declared to have defeated opposition candidate moderate former premier, Mir Hossein Mousavi, in Friday's polls winning 63 percent of the vote.

The post-election violence is worst in Iran since students demonstrations in 1999 triggered a week of unrest across the nation.

But despite the violence and doubts over the probity of the polls, Obama vowed to stick by his pledge to pursue "tough, hard headed" diplomacy with "no illusions" with Iran on issues including its nuclear program.

Walking a fine political line, Obama hinted at the limits of US influence in the crisis, saying he wanted to be "very clear" that "it is up to Iranians to make a decision about who Iran's leaders will be."

France and Germany both summoned Tehran's ambassadors to express concern over the police crackdown and weekend arrests of 170 people as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni on Monday ordered a probe into the opposition's claims.

Any bid to distort the vote would be unacceptable, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, calling for a "full light" to be shed on the results.

"It would be unacceptable if vote-rigging had falsified the result of the elections, against the will democratically expressed by the Iranian people," Sarkozy said in a statement.

And German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters: "We condemn the arrests made during the demonstrations."

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon denounced what he called the "brutal treatment of peaceful protestors" and said Canada had "called for a full and transparent investigation into electoral fraud and discrepancies."

Iran's envoy to Canada was also called on to explain the brief detention of a Canadian journalist covering the protests.

But Iran's ambassador to Paris, Seyed Mehdi Miraboutalebi, defended the election outcome and accused French officials of "supporting the rioters and those who want to undermine the security" of Iran.

The presidential vote took place "in a competitive climate, was free and democratic and the elected president won more than 63 percent of the vote," said an embassy statement.

The son of Iran's late shah said he saw echoes of the Islamic Revolution that overthrew his father in the massive crowds spilling onto Tehran's streets.

"I think the climate that we see in Iran today is not dissimilar to a few months of the regime back then," former crown prince Reza Cyrus Pahlavi, who lives in exile in suburban Washington, told CNN.

Pahlavi appealed to Western leaders, particularly Obama, to "show solidarity" with Iranians, likening their plight to that of Eastern Europeans during the Soviet era.

Mousavi has lodged a formal protest with the Guardians Council, the country's top election supervisory body, calling for the results to be annulled. The council is now set to meet on Tuesday, Iranian state television said.

Hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters defied a ban Monday and again took to the streets in Tehran, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the "genuine" will of the Iranian people should be respected.

"The way the regime responds to legitimate protests will have implications for Iran's relationships with the rest of the world in future," warned Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Doubts over the validity of the outcome were also raised by Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak. "I'm not sure if the results reflect the real will of the Iranian people," he said.

Barak, whose government believes Iran is seeking to acquire a nuclear bomb and considers the Islamic Republic an existential threat to Israel, said Ahmadinejad's re-election was "bad news."

North Korea meanwhile congratulated Ahmadinejad on his re-election and wished him success in frustrating foreign interference in his country, saying it reflected the Iranian people's support and trust, state media reported.


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